Important Opening Clarification: This article is not about "calling out" government officials, or CEOs of large corporations, or cops who shoot black people in the back or presidents who lie every day. This clarification is also made in the middle of the article but we decided to make it here as well.
This article is about "horizontal call-outs," a practice that is on the increase as of late in the social justice community. It's where one alleged progressive entity 'calls out' another progressive entity. It's about progressive infighting and it's almost universally frowned upon by legitimate actors as being toxic. How to deal with toxic call-outs online is almost universally accepted - delete, ban, control who can comment on your forum, report, contact authorities if it doesn't stop, and get legal help if it spirals out of control.
Call-outs have become a serious problem in the social justice community. It's ugly. It's self-righteous. It's sad. It's uncalled for. People get hurt.
The definition of a 'call-out' is to publicly name and shame a group or individual and for the purpose of this article it is narrowed to progressive vs. progressive call-outs.
Groups or individuals doing the call-outs often can't be reasoned with on any level. They are convinced they are right and that is that. Their identity is defined by what they'e doing and to reverse course would mean self examination on a deeper level than they are willing to undertake. Some people have even crafted an obvious business model out of call-outs, with templates and jargon, and that's a whole separate level of evil.
Matt Kappadakunnel puts it this way in his article: Calling out “call-outs”: how to bring charity to the social justice movement and why it’s important
"The problem with call-outs is it shames individual members, promotes a punishing form of education executed by self-affirmed “woke” people which is done in a manner antithetical to the mission of social justice and reinforces a toxic environment whereby members walk on egg shells for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and being called out."
So who is accountable to who? What would happen if we approached some random group and said, "We call you into accountability with us!" It would be absurd. We know who we're accountable to, Jesus and the majority of happy TCL community members. We would no more launch a public shaming campaign on another social justice group than we would on our own mothers. Doing so would be as far away from who who we are as you can get.
Trying to reason with a "progressive" group that would go to the level of a public shaming campaign feels exactly like trying to reason with members of the Trump cult. It's impossible. The only solution they will consider is one where you sign a full confession of their accusations and then agree to their template of "coming into right relationship with them." If that isn't emotional extortion what is? That's what makes it heinous and toxic.
It’s important to make the following distinction. Loretta Ross said it eloquently in her New York Times piece, “I’m a Black Feminist. I Think Call-Out Culture Is Toxic.”
“Call-outs are justified to challenge provocateurs who deliberately hurt others, or for powerful people beyond our reach. Effectively criticizing such people is an important tactic for achieving justice. But most public shaming is horizontal and done by those who believe they have greater integrity or more sophisticated analyses. They become the self-appointed guardians of political purity. Call-outs make people fearful of being targeted. People avoid meaningful conversations when hypervigilant perfectionists point out apparent mistakes, feeding the cannibalistic maw of the cancel culture.”
When individuals or groups get the notion that you need to be held "accountable" to them they often grow indignant if you don't agree. That can lead to an increase in hostility on their part where the group crosses the line engaging in illegal and unethical tactics. One such tactic is known as "Doxxing."
‘Doxxing’ (or ‘dropping documents’) involves the release of personal information without permission, and to a hostile online audience. This may include phone numbers, email and residential addresses, photographs, social media profiles or bank details. Doxxing is totally unethical and illegal under state criminal laws. It’s a crime and can lead to serious legal consequences like imprisonment if you get caught harassing others and sharing their private information. If someone is using published personal information within ethical standards it is not a crime. However, those doxxing with a more insidious agenda are committing a serious crime if their motives are proven to be unethical.
Another way a call-outs can devolve into illegal and unethical behavior is when they easily turn into cyber harassment. Cyber harassment is defined as repetitive, invasive & anxiety provoking online interpersonal attacks. It is the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to harass, control, manipulate or habitually disparage a child, adult, business or group without a direct or implied threat of physical harm. It isn't cute or justified. It's sick and wrong and you need to understand it because it could happen to you.
With the advent of the internet, social media and mobile device technology, these forms of abuse have become around the clock activities leaving minimal respite for the victim. Having access to a multitude of digital devices combined with online forums to carry out harassment, the victim has no sanctuary or avenues for escape.
For More About Cyber Harassment Read: Cyber Harassment Internet Defamation & Internet Trolls
A particularly egregious form of a call-out is mob harassment. Mob harassment occurs when you receive communication at a large volume that is threatening and/or overwhelming. The communication may often be intended to distress or discredit you. It's also known as "mob attacks" or "cybermobs," and can be from multiple individuals, accounts, or bots. It's usually coordinated and may include a special interest group.
Mob harassment can feel overwhelming and that’s what it is intended to do. The target can and does feel helpless like the entire situation is spinning out of control. Sometimes the mob keeps coming at their target for days, weeks or months. A person often feels like it’s never going to end and it will destroy their life. There is no excuse whatsoever for this kind of behavior. None.
Fortunately smart and sympathetic people have put together an action plan for people targeted with mob harassment. Here it is. Please look it over and become familiar with it in the event that you or a friend or colleague ever becomes the focus of mob harassment.
The Christian Left was an early pioneer in social media and probably the first social media Christian ministry and community. Many have imitated and duplicated our methods and policies over the years.
Our trolling policy (which includes 'Concern Trolling') was one of our earliest policies. It is overwhelmingly appreciated by TCL community members. It applies to all people who come here to disrupt no matter who they are, left or right. For years it was only the right that attacked us. That's changed and it's a sad thing. It only reinforces what conservatives often say, "The left always eats its own."
We make no apologies about our troll policy and we never will. It is designed to protect our admin team and our community members. If we've ever been overzealous in the enforcement it stems from our desire to protect the community. Concern trolls often get very, very upset when they don't get to force their will on TCL. Sometimes they go to great lengths try to control us. It just proves that their intent was never innocent in the first place.
Our community members don't want to be harassed. They get enough of that from friends and family because they are Christian progressives. We've devoted tens of thousands of hours keeping TCL a troll free haven (including concern trolls). With a page this size it has to be this way. 99% of our members appreciate the policy.
Please read our Troll Policy here. The Christian Left Is A Troll Free Page.
Sometimes people misconstrue our trolling policies to mean that people have to agree with us on everything. Not true. WE don't even agree with us on everything. We often post a wide variety of opinions on all kinds of topics. That being said this is not a debate page. If someone doesn't like a post or doesn't agree with something we ask that they scroll on by. That's all. Just scroll on by. It has to be that way with a page this size. It prevents a lot of poop storms. Trust us.
Most people understand these concepts without ever having to be told. They participate in our ministry because they see it as needed and valuable. It's an infinitesimally small percentage of people who ever need to be informed that we do not allow shaming, lecturing, telling us how to run the page or the ministry, asking obvious passive-aggressive questions, telling us what merch we're allowed to offer, etc. We've taken down merch a couple times in the past as a courtesy, not because we were shamed or ordered.
Tens of thousands of people have told us over the years that TCL is a literal lifeline for them. Several LGBTQIA+ folks have said they were entertaining suicide until they found TCL. We were one of the first national Christian ministries to fully support marriage equality. The ministry is too important to too many people to not protect this space and protect this space we will ... by whatever nonviolent means we have to.
"I appeal to you to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. - Romans 16:17-20 ESV
They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” – John: 8
"No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord. - Isaiah 54:17
For additional resources and articles about call-outs please see links below.
Barack Obama takes on 'woke' call-out culture: 'That's not activism'
More On Call-Out Culture & Public Shaming
(Article): Defining “Online Harassment”: A Glossary of Terms Very Helpful
(Article): Calling out “call-outs”: how to bring charity to the social justice movement and why it’s important
(Article): Public Shaming: The Global Epidemic
(Article): The shame of public shaming
(Article): How to Handle Social Media Harassment
(Book): So You've Been Publicly Shamed
We will be adding additional resources here as we find them. Our intent is to build a 'library of links' so to speak on this topic. If you know of any good articles or books please email us at TCL@TheChristianLeft.org. No hate mail. When we get hate mail of any kind we read the first few sentences. Once we discover that it's hate mail we close it and delete it.
The Christian Left is user supported. We're one of very few voices offering a counter-narrative to the billion dollar empire of The "Christian" Right. Every day new people find the ministry and say things like, "Where have you been all my life! Finally a place for me!" That's what has kept us coming back every day since 2009. We feel the same way they do about the TCL community. It is a haven for almost 400K people and we're going to keep protecting it as we've always done. It's a big job. We need dedicated people who believe in this mission to participate by backing our effort financially. Make a contribution today and sign up to make it monthly. Any amount helps. Here's how (click or tap here).
About TCL Blog
We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.
Charles Toy is the founding member of The Christian Left. We're sure you will enjoy his passion as well as his wit. Guest bloggers featured often.